In an attempt to spur stagnant Japanese consumption, as well as to help to curb long working hours, the Japanese government and Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) have come up with something called Premium Friday.

Beginning last month on 24 February, Premium Friday encourages companies to finish working hours at 3pm on the last Friday of the month, so employees can have a longer weekend and spend more of their hard earned money.

Participating companies will also encourage employees to use paid time off to make the weekend even longer.

Large companies, such as Softbank, Sumitomo, and Morinaga have also announced plans to review their employees working hours.

Over 3,200 companies have shown their indication to support Premium Friday. Amazon Japan has some tailored food and drink offers and is making some Prime Video content free.

In collaboration with Japan’s major restaurant information website Gurunavi, Asahi Breweries is offering coupons to drink Asahi beer at restaurants.

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Premium for everyone?

However, there is some uncertainty about Premium Friday as it seems focused on large and public sector driven companies. There are fears medium and small companies may struggle because of their small headcounts.

Also, because Premium Friday encourages retailers and service providers to offer promotions, employees of these businesses may not share the benefits of shorter working hours.

In a survey held by Cultural Convenience Club, 68 percent of respondents say their employer will not adopt the programme.

Ironically, the same survey also shows that nearly 60 percent of respondents want to stay at home for Premium Friday, which is not something that the Japanese government will want to hear.

But Premium Friday has just begun. It will be interesting to see Japan’s attempt to challenge its sluggish economy and long working hour culture. The effect of the new campaign in February and March will be revealed in Japan’s GDP report in May 2017.